Zambia and Zimbabwe will start building a $4 billion hydropower dam across the Zambezi River next year, a statement said Tuesday, signalling progress in a project first mooted 25 years ago.
The Batoka Gorge dam will be situated 50 kilometres (30 miles) downstream of the Victoria Falls with a designed capacity of 2,400 megawatts shared between the two countries.
The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), which is jointly run by Zambia and Zimbabwe, said feasibility studies were almost complete and a developer would be signed up by the end of this year.
“The developer is expected to commence works in the last quarter of 2020,” Munyaradzi Munodawafa, chief executive of the ZRA, said in the statement.
The ZRA said the project would have “minimal impacts” on local people as the reservoir behind the dam wall would be contained within the gorge.
Studies are underway to mitigate environmental damage, it said.
Zambia has said the project will be built on a “build-operate-transfer” funding model that would not put fiscal strain on the two impoverished countries.
The country’s energy minister, Matthew Nkhuwa, told reporters this week that a bidder had yet to be chosen to build for the project.
Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa said General Electric of the US and Power Construction Corporation of China had been selected.
Along with the dam, roads, transmission infrastructure, and housing would also be built.
The two countries already run the massive Kariba hydropower dam further upstream on the Zambezi river, although it is operating below capacity due to a drought.